June 20, 2018
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Middle School of the Kennebunks clears out mold

By Matt Kiernan, Journal Tribune

KENNEBUNK, Maine — A group of teachers at the Middle School of the Kennebunks may be able to put some of their health issues behind them now that any mold within the school has been removed, according to MSK art teacher Mary McCarthy.

During the weekend of March 24-25, Regional School Unit 21 administrators brought in a mold investigator, Bill Whistine of the Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, Fla., and his dog to search MSK for mold. Whistine and his K-9 found mold on items in certain rooms, but those have since been removed, said Andrew Dolloff, superintendent of schools, at Monday’s school board meeting.

“I really believe he got every spore,” said McCarthy about Whistine, at the meeting in Kennebunk Elementary School.

McCarthy was among a number of teachers last month who told the school board their stories of health problems they said were caused by mold in the facility. She said she struggled with having a cloudy mind when leaving work, hair and eyebrow loss and fatigue.

Now, though, she said physicians have told her that she and her colleagues will recover from their health issues within the next six to 12 months, depending on the severity of their sicknesses.

“I want to see it has a healing process with the board,” McCarthy said about moving past the incident.

Dolloff sent an email to parents on March 26 detailing the locations of the mold. The places where mold was found were: Room 506 (art room), in a papier mache elephant; Room 502 (art storage), in a fabric book; Room 709/711 (science lab), in sneakers worn by students when taking water samples and an unused aquarium with wet rocks; the greenhouse, in a wet cardboard box; and in the maintenance storage room, in a cardboard box.

Although mold was located in those areas of the building, none was found in wall cavities, above ceiling tiles or below floors, Dolloff said.

According to Dolloff, the school may have caused only two items to have mold: A wooden box in Room 711 (science lab) that likely became wet when the room was flooded in 2007, and a sink in Room 503 (health room), that was caused by a leak.

“These items would be able to produce enough spores to impact the health of those throughout the building who are sensitive to such irritants,” Dolloff said in the letter.

Dolloff said at the meeting that these items were removed and that samples of ceiling tiles show there isn’t any mold there.

In addition to the dog search, thermal-imaging tests were conducted on the entire building, Dolloff said, and no signs of moisture infiltration were discovered. The technician who conducted the study, though, said air loss was found around many wall outlets and along the roof ridges of the gym, but he didn’t find any moisture leaks.

“It’s all really fantastic news,” Dolloff said at the meeting.

He noted in his letter that it might never be completely known what caused each item to have mold, but that because of the investigation, the school is now mold- and leak-free. Administrators will continue to remove wet materials from the building if they are found, he said.

“It’s been very constructive,” school board Chairman Norman Archer said about the process, adding that he is glad the board can focus more on providing better education for students at future school board meetings.

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